Mary McLaughlin, the highly-regarded chief operating officer of Vapiano UK – the European fast-casual concept – has decided to step down from the company. The former managing director of La Tasca Group is to seek a “bigger” role, partly because of the impact the slowing commercial property market has had upon the Vapiano rollout. Ian Daly, the former Compass executive who together with McLaughlin spearheaded the UK launch of Vapiano earlier this year, said: “Mary is very talented and experienced operator, and is seeking a bigger challenge at this stage of her career. “I was delighted she joined me to build the brand up, which we will still do – albeit at a slightly slower pace. I have always said I would like, in an ideal world, to get to 20 sites over five years and I'm not really changing that – but what I can't ignore is the impact of the slowdown of the financial markets and the effects on the economy generally. “We are still looking for sites but not at the speed we had originally envisaged." Daly – a former Compass executive – said that Vapiano UK, backed by the parent company in Germany, was currently in discussions over two further central London sites. He said customers were responding well to the first London site, which opened just off Oxford Street earlier this year. He said: “The good news is that the reaction from our customers has been fantastic, so I know that the brand works. I'm just going to make sure that we go at a pace that is right in the current economic climate.” It is understood that McLaughlin is now taking a short break. She added: “It was a tough decision as we have built up a great team but I have no doubt that Vapiano's unique style will be successful in the UK.” Through franchising agreements, Vapiano has already been expanded to a number of European countries including Belgium, Hungry, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and Turkey. It also has three company-owned stores in the US, all in Washington DC, and it is currently developing three new sites that will be franchised in Florida, Dallas and Boston.